An acid test for “Best Practices”

Dale Emery proposes a simple test to see if a best practice really is.

This test, dubbed Emery’s Ironclad Test of Best Practices, reads as follows:

For something to be a best practice, it has to be practised, and it has to be best.

The first part is a sad reflection on our industry. The fact of the matter is that the vast majority of identified “best practices” (basic things like version control!) are often not done or done very poorly.

However, the term “best” is a slight misnomer. The history of the term, AFAIK, isn’t that the practice itself is best. Instead, a “best practice” is a practice used by teams or organisations that are “best”; the assumption being that the practice (or sum of the practices) contribute towards being the best.

So, I’m afraid that Dale’s law probably isn’t quite as ironclad as it could be. Still, it’s pithy and quotable, and that counts for a lot. 😉

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Author: Robert Watkins

My name is Robert Watkins. I am a software developer and have been for over 18 years now. I currently work for people, but my opinions here are in no way endorsed by them (which is cool; their opinions aren’t endorsed by me either). My main professional interests are in Java development, using Agile methods, with a historical focus on building web based applications. I’m also a Mac-fan and love my iPhone, which I’m currently learning how to code for. I live and work in Brisbane, Australia, but I grew up in the Northern Territory, and still find Brisbane too cold (after 16 years here). I’m married, with two children and one cat. My politics are socialist in tendency, my religious affiliation is atheist (aka “none of the above”), my attitude is condescending and my moral standing is lying down.

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